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Church suffers second fire


KEOKUK, Iowa (BP) — Bethany Baptist Church in Keokuk, Iowa, a congregation affiliated with the Baptist Convention of Iowa, was struck by fire Dec. 13, less than three months after most of the historic building was devastated by arson.

According to reports by the Associated Press and the Des Moines Register, the Keokuk Fire Department described the December blaze as suspicious and similar to the Sept. 19 arson that caused the collapse of the church’s education wing, devoured the pastor’s study, and left the sanctuary badly damaged by smoke and water.

Ronnie McLain, Bethany’s pastor, told the AP that church members were set to vote Dec. 14 on demolishing the facility. He noted that the worst damage was inflicted last September.

After the September fire, the congregation met in an unused school in nearby Ferris, Ill., a 20-minute drive from Keokuk. They returned to the community Dec. 17 when River Hills Nursing Home invited the congregation to meet in its chapel.